The Bishop of Lichfield has joined calls for more support to be provided to people applying for Universal Credit after reports of a surge of demand at food banks in areas where the benefit has been introduced.
A petition has been brought by the End Hunger UK campaign calling on the Government to “fix” the controversial benefits system by providing more help and a more flexible system for those claiming it.
The campaign has now been backed by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Geoff Annas, and the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Clive Gregory.
In a joint statement, the three bishops said: “We have signed the End Hunger UK petition – we would like to also encourage parishes and churchgoers across Lichfield Diocese to do likewise.
“More and more families have had to turn to food banks following the introduction of Universal Credit, and are reporting unintended delays, lack of digital support, poor administration, and a lack of flexibility in the system. All of these problems can and should be resolved.
“In our diocese alone, there are 13 Trussell Trust food banks, which last year distributed 31,376 emergency food parcels to people in crisis. There are also at least 29 independent food banks. Many of our local churches do quite remarkable work, helping to meet the need in their communities but we must proactively reduce the need for food banks in the first place.
“We need urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit, and a long-term commitment that the social security system will provide enough income to afford good food on a regular basis. Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty, as more people are moved on to Universal Credit.”
The call comes after The Trussell Trust reported a 52 per cent increase in food bank use in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, as well as rising debt, destitution and hunger.
People can sign the petition, which will be presented to the Prime Minister ahead of the Budget in November, online.